Male Singing Voice Ranges [Bass, Baritone, Tenor]
The male singing voice is generally known for it’s rich and deep quality, but there are actually many different voice types and male singing voice ranges that guys possess, each with it’s own individual character that can be developed into a powerful and unique singing voice. Singing isn’t necessarily a “Tenor’s world” anymore due to the many new resources out there designed specifically for other male singing voice ranges. The truth is that you really can build a powerful and impressive singing voice no matter what voice type you are. As a low baritone myself that has been coaching all voice types for the last decade, this comes from personal experience.
The three main Male singing voice ranges, Bass, Baritone and Tenor were designed as part of the classical Fach system, where specific pieces were allocated to certain singers who had a natural quality to their voice – generally the villain was a low voiced Baritone or Bass, and the hero was a Tenor. These classifications have more to do with vocal character than they do vocal range, and I often like to point out to my Male students that even Chris Cornell who was know to possess one of highest and most powerful vocal ranges in rock and pop was actually a natural baritone. Axl Rose, Bruce Springsteen, Richie Kotzen, David Coverdale – all baritone singers who are known for an extensive, bright and powerful range. The greatest limitation with each of these male singing voice ranges isn’t actually potential high range, it’s potential high range and tonal character. Lets look at each of the male singing voice ranges and get down to some of the unique issues and techniques that each voice type will encounter.
The Tenor Range
Tenor singers are generally known to be natural singers who possess a pleasant tone and relatively higher range than other Male singers. Singers like Robert Plant, Bon Jovi and Layne Staley really do feed into the stereotype that all Tenor singers have a great voice even with various levels of technical ability. Tenors are know to sing a high C, sometimes called a Tenor C with more ease and little training compared to baritone or bass singers – but range really isn’t everything when it comes to being a great singer. Much of that natural high range comes at the expense of rich vocal character and low range, so tonal quality really is an important focus for many Tenor singers. The natural ability to sing high notes often leads to an imbalance or lack of ability to truly connect chest and head voice because to sing most pop or rock songs they don’t really need to. While it’s often thought of as a blessing to be a Tenor, the fact that they often sing well with minimal training or technique leads to vocal issues like the ones experienced by guys like Robert Plant and Bon Jovi – the loss of their natural high range as their voice ages.
The truth is, all voice types actually function the same in terms of the vocal mechanism, it’s really tonal quality and resonance that changes between each type – so even with a naturally high range that may allow you to sing higher songs easier than other sings, it’s important that you train your voice effectively so that your gifted voice stays strong, healthy and retains range as your voice ages. In particular, vowel formation is important for Tenors as their speaking voice often sits close to where many contemporary songs are centred – while they generally CAN get away with using speech vowels, this doesn’t mean it’s a healthy or sustainable approach. Along with vowels, placement is another important vocal technique that will help a natural Tenor retain their high range as their voice matures and ages.
Ranging anywhere from around A2 or C3 to C5 and beyond, Tenor singers have a bit of a head start on the beginning stages of learning how to sing with the way that their voices resonate naturally within the vocal tract and resonant space. Train your tenor voice properly and you really will have one of the most powerful and versatile vocal instruments in the world.
The Baritone Range
Baritone singers have many sub types, and I’ve even heard of some higher Baritones referred to as “Bari-Tenor” due to their ability to sing naturally in both the Tenor range, while also possessing some of the depth and lower notes available to a baritone singer. While voice type and the Fach system really doesn’t dictate how you can sing or the possible range you have at your disposal, it does sometimes help to use these classifications when you are first developing your voice so that you make use of techniques and information that were designed with your natural voice in mind. I personally like to classify a true baritone as a singer who naturally sings an E2 in a rich and full tone (out of interest, my lowest natural note is around a C2).
Baritone singers often struggle to differentiate their own voices from that of a Tenor and suffer “The Baritone Curse” that can sometimes confuse a lack of proper vocal technique or appropriate resonance to “having a bad voice”. Remember, if you’re a natural baritone, your voice has a full half-octave of range and frequencies that occur before many Tenors even sing their lowest note – this means that the character of your vowel, your tonal quality, the mechanical balance, the resonant balance are all slightly different, so it’s important to find your own true voice rather than trying to copy another singer than may very well have a different instrument to you. Baritone singers like Chris Cornell or even Bruce Springsteen have extensive vocal ranges that lean more towards a rich and deep quality even as they rival a natural Tenor range, and the same points of vowel formation and placement really do ring true with Baritone singers, along with developing a balanced blend of resonance through the middle range, and even being careful where balanced onsets occur due to additional vocal fold weight that may occur naturally with the rich quality to their tone.
The Bass Range
A true bass descends well below the range of a Baritone, even towards a G1. With a rich, deep and booming resonance, many bass singers choose simply to focus on improving the quality of their low range while utilising only an Octave or two of their possible range – the truth is, the mechanism works exactly the same as any other voice type when it comes to being a bass, so developing proper management of vocal fold weight by balancing the TA and CT musculature will allow a bass to sing with much of the same range as a baritone, albeit with a richer low range and thinner character in the high range.
Within each of these male singing voice ranges comes various classifications like dramatic and lyrics – just remember that the Fach system is really designed for allocating classical pieces to singers with a certain character, not to dictate your potential range. If you have a deep and low speaking voice like me, this doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bass, and really doesn’t dictate your ability to develop a powerful, consistent and impressive high range.
Balance is key to all Male Singing Voice Ranges
Singing has more to do with balance than it does muscular strength – a great singer isn’t necessarily a ‘strong’ singer, they’re actually a ‘balanced’ singer that has learned to control and coordinate the various elements of the voice to create one fluid, resonant and powerful range. Many male singers struggle with the desire to ‘push’ and ‘flex’ when they sing, when in fact singing should be an easy and joyous pursuit, no matter which of the male singing voice ranges you may fall under. Developing balance in each of the vocal aspects from onsets, resonance, weight and tension (CT and TA muscles), registers, consonants, support are all key to developing a powerful singing voice no matter which voice type you are.
By balancing each element of your voice you will learn to sing with efficient resonance instead of muscular force or brute strength – singing should be easy, free and effortless. Are you singing with balance, or are you pushing your voice?
A great place to start for each of these Male singing voice ranges is the free foundations short course Foundation 101 available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up a rock solid foundation for your voice with important techniques like vowel shaping, balanced onsets, middle voice, connecting chest and head and SO much more. After all, a house is only ever going to be as strong as the foundation it has been built upon, and your voice is no different! When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice training from a coach experienced with each of the male singing voice ranges, you’re welcome to book a Skype Lesson with me and we’ll start working towards extending your range and building control, consistency and balance in your voice every time you sing – no matter which of the Male Singing Voice Ranges you are!
If you have any questions about the Male Singing Voice Ranges, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.